A-level Biology is one of the most difficult A-level Subject. It is extremely important to get a good grade in A-level Biology to study Medicine and related fields. This article has been written to help you realize the difficulty of A-level Biology and answer all related questions.
How Hard is A-level Biology?
A-level Biology is one of the most difficult A-level Subject due to its extensive syllabus, complicated concepts, challenging lab exam, and hard theory/MCQ papers. However, it is less difficult than A-level Further Maths and Chemistry.
In my opinion, A-level Biology is amongst the top 5 difficult A-level subjects.
You need an eidetic memory to remember all the content in the Biology syllabus. You must memorize all the nitty-gritty stuff in order to successfully write the exam.
Most students struggle with big time in A-level Biology. The concepts are quite difficult to understand the first time and you must go over them multiple times to absorb all the points.
The lab exam in As-level Biology is another big challenge you must overcome. You need to set up the experiment, conduct it, collect the data and then answer the critical thinking questions related to the experiment in a time-restricted exam.
In Year 13 the Biology lab exam demands you to design an unfamiliar experiment, list the apparatus, postulate the possible errors, and explain the improvements. You must do all this in your head as you have no access to the lab itself.
The theory paper is the hardest paper in A-level Biology. The examiners ask you to link various topics in an unfamiliar context. The questions are long, difficult and monotonous in nature.
How difficult is the content in A-level Biology?
The content in A-level Biology is significantly more difficult than GCSE Biology and most students struggle with the in-depth concepts and large syllabus. There are more topics and the content is harder to understand.
The following topics are included in the A-level Biology syllabus:
- Biological molecule
- Organisms exchange substances with their environment
- Genetic information, variation and relationships between organisms
- Energy transfers in and between organisms (A-level only)
- Organisms respond to changes in their internal and external environments (A-level only)
- Genetics, populations, evolution and ecosystems (A-level only)
- The control of gene expression (A-level only)
As you can see the first 4 topics are As-level topics. The subject matter is the same in GCSE level Biology except that it is more in-depth, has challenging concepts, more details, and harsher marking.
The topics in A-level Biology or Year 13 are ones, you are probably unfamiliar with. These topics are at best only mentioned at GCSE level. They will be quite difficult to understand at first, and you will need to put in a lot of effort to absorb all the subject matter.
The above topics are further divided into sub-topics which can give you an idea of the amount of content in the A-level Biology syllabus.
Why is A-level Biology so Hard?
A-level Biology is so hard because it is one of the most important subjects for Medicine and related fields, hence examiners make the exam difficult and competitive so that relatively few people manage to get an A or A*.
Examiners want the competition for competitive fields like Medicine and Biology to be extremely high, in order to get the best students to study those subjects.
The exams have questions that require a high degree of application of the core concepts. Examiners design the questions to test the critical thinking skills of students. Most students struggle with these sort of questions.
You are required to explain every answer throughly.
The pass rate of A-level Biology is over 95% compared to 90% for GCSE Biology.
This is because students take GCSE Biology for trying out the subject, there are no pre-requisites for taking GCSE level Biology, and most students are not very serious when they are giving their GCSE exams.
The high pass rate for A-level Biology can be explained by the colleges asking for high GCSE Biology grades (usually a 6), students are more serious especially those going to medicine and related fields, and a larger number of students drop-out from A-level Biology.
What are the Minimum Requirements to Study A-level Biology?
The minimum requirements to study A-level Biology are quite high; colleges usually ask for a 6 in GCSE Biology and a 6 in another GCSE Science. They also expect a 5 in GCSE Maths and GCSE English.
Some colleges may accept you on lower grades. These are only a guideline set by colleges taking into consideration the relative difficulty of A-level Biology, as they want all the students to clear the subject successfully.
You can submit an application to the applied colleges to explain any extenuating circumstances or other reasons which prevented you from getting your desired grades.
Colleges understand that teenagers have hard lives and are willing to make concessions. However, they may ask you to sit for extra classes or do extra work in order to pass A-level Biology.
I usually recommend students to go the private route for subjects where colleges are not willing to take students on lower grades, however, I would not recommend this for A-level Biology since there is a lab component in the exam and teaching yourself everything in the syllabus is going to be a difficult task.
If you have a passion for the subject or need it for you university applications then you should definitely take it. It is a subject that you can practice and easily get better at.
What is A-level Biology Like?
Like GCSE, A-level Biology is the study of the structure, function, growth, origin, evolution and distribution of living organisms. The Biology classes are quite interesting and the lab sessions even more so.
Most teachers often require you to study the material beforehand so you get a rough idea of the topic. Then the teacher explains the content in-depth so that your understanding of the material becomes better.
The lab classes are very interesting but anxiety-inducing as well. You will get a chance to explore Biology and deepen your understanding by practically conducting the experiments.
It can be really frustrating to get completely different results from the class during the lab sessions.
This happens all the time and with everybody. Don’t worry. You must have made a silly mistake. Just try to be careful and pay attention and I can assure you that you will make far fewer errors.
There will be many in-class discussions and interactive sessions. You can clear all your doubts about the subject matter from your peers and teachers.
You will be expected to do several years of past-papers inorder to prepare you for the exams.
Overall you will enjoy the subject especially if you have a strong passion for it. You can easily overcome the difficulty of the subject if you manage to put in the hard work.
What can A-level Biology Lead to?
A-level Biology can lead to an undergraduate in Biology, Medicine, and related fields. It can lead to a career as a Biochemist, Doctor, Biology Teacher, Microbiologist, Academic Researcher and many others.
A degree in Biology and related fields can open a plethora of opportunities for you. It will also ensure you a medium to a high paying job in the near future.
Students studying Medicine have one of the highest paying jobs in the country.
Biology is an evolving science with new discoveries all the time. Hence there are always a chance to research and investigate.
Furthermore you can teach students; either as a school teacher/professor or as a tutor.
Alternatively, you can start a Youtube Channel and explain the topics in Biology in a clear and concise manner. Youtube is not saturated; there is always competition for quality channels and content.
You could also create other resources for Biology students such as books, websites for notes and explanations or a revision guide. The best part is that once you have created the resource, you can earn passively from it for years to come.
A-level Biology is an awesome subject albeit a difficult one. It will give you a solid understanding of living organisms and everything related to it.
A-level Biology will help you learn several transferrable skills that you can apply elesewhere.
You will learn how to collect and analyse data, develop critical thinking skills, become better at applying your knowledge to unfamiliar contexts, gain communication and interpersonal skills, become more creative, learn to adapt and manage your time better.
Medicine is perhaps the most competitive field that exists and you must get a good grade in A-level Biology in order to stand a chance at the top tier universities.
Most students have a tough time with A-level Biology since they fall behind in the classes. You must revise consistently and take help from your teachers if you have trouble understanding something.
Alterantively there are amazing resources online, that will help you get back on track.